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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Wednesday, November 11

The indomitable Dame Ethel

Synopsis

In his autobiographical sketch, “A Mingled Chime,” the late British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham offered this assessment of the British composer Dame Ethel Smyth: “Ethel Smyth is without question the most remarkable of her sex that I have been privileged to know,” and wrote he admired her “fiery energy and unrelenting fixity of purpose.”

Born in 1858, Smyth became a composer against her family’s wishes, and it took dogged determination to get her large-scale choral and operatic works performed in an era when most in the music business did not take female composers seriously. That was before they met Dame Ethel, who convinced legendary conductors like Arthur Nikisch, Bruno Walter, and Sir Thomas, who realized her music had merit.

Smyth’s opera “The Wreckers” had its premiere performance in Leipzig on today’s date in 1906, and was championed in England by Sir Thomas Beecham, who thought it her masterpiece. “It remains,” wrote Beecham in 1944, the year of Smyth’s death, “one of the three or four English operas of real musical merit and vitality written in the past forty years.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Ethyl Smyth (1858 - 1944) The Wreckers Soloists and BBC Philharmonic; Odaline de la Martinez , cond. Conifer 51250

Additional Information

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